Athlete, actor, acrobat and artist–great dancers transcend themselves on stage. That’s never been truer than at the Dancing Wheels Company & School in Cleveland.
Dancing Wheels is comprised of 13 stand-up and sit-down dancers. The company works 12 months a year performing around the nation, as well as teaching studio classes and off-site outreach programs for the community. They work with more than 2,000 children each year, offering an array of courses in ballet, modern dance, hip-hop, wheelchair technique, theatre and creative movement for children and adults — ages three and older, with and without disabilities. They also perform 70 to 100 performances throughout a year, ranging from full-length concerts to more assembly-based lectures, traveling locally from Cleveland to Hollywood and internationally from Guatemala to Poland. The organization was founded in 1980 by Mary Verdi-Fletcher.
“This year is our 30th anniversary season,” says Verdi-Fletcher, who still dances with the troupe. “I was born with a physical disability, spina bifida, and have used a wheelchair for mobility my whole life. Even though I was disabled, I wanted to follow in my mother’s footsteps to become a dancer. In a performance at the old Cosmopolitan in Willoughby, Ohio, on October 1, 1980, in front of 2,000 people, my non-disabled partner David and I wowed an audience with a high-energy performance that was highly publicized by the media. After that performance, people throughout the world started to take notice of this new art form and today there are physically integrated companies worldwide.”
The troupe’s inspiration is contagious. The Dancing Wheels Company has attracted spotlights everywhere from CNN to “Good Morning America,” with a special nationally-televised performance on the tribute “Christopher Reeve: A Celebration of Hope.” The company performed in Atlanta in 1996 at the Paralympic Games with a plethora of stars including Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder.
“Disabilities disappear on stage,” says Dana Kuhn, manager of development and communications at Dancing Wheels. “The company’s work transcends the idea of disability or inability. The beauty, speed, grace and agility of the dancers demonstrate artistic capabilities in every way, but qualified candidates must not only possess a passion for dance. They must also have a desire to serve as ambassadors for the mission of our company and organization. It is essential that dancers enjoy reaching out and educating children.”
On October 1, Dancing Wheels celebrates its 30th anniversary at Tower City Center with Everyone Dance, Now!!, a performance befitting decades of dance innovation. September 25-26 you can catch them at Cleveland’s fantastically original IngenuityFest, where they will roll with the Inlet Dance Company under the Detroit Superior Bridge. Then catch musicals like Alice in Wonderland (November 15 at the Stocker Arts Center in Lorain) and the world premiere of Pinocchio (December 2-5 at the Breen Center for the Performing Arts at Saint Ignatius High School).
“There are more than 40 pieces in our repertory that are fresh and distinctive works. They excite audiences around the world,” says Verdi-Fletcher. “But the real goal of Dancing Wheels is to offer children and adults access to the arts, reaching a population that would normally be left out of enjoying this type of recreation because of disabilities or socio-economic challenges. All of our educational and artistic components stress the philosophy of inclusion.” – Submitted by guest blogger Keith Gribbins
After the documentaries. After the dramas. After the animated shorts and the experimental puzzlers. What’s a movie buff at the 33rd Cleveland International Film Festival (March 19-29, 2009) to do?
Good and plenty, with many options under one roof.
Every spring, the festival takes over Tower City Center, a downtown mall filled with shopping and restaurants. Those who tire of popcorn and Milk Duds can find everything from burgers and beer at Hard Rock Cafe, to regional organic cuisine at Muse, and steaks at Morton’s or Hyde Park.
This weekend I attended almost all of the sessions of the AT&T US World Figure Skating Championships at Quicken Loans Arena. Not being a real skating enthusiast I really didn’t know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. I had a great time! Not only did I see world-class skating, but our city shone. I was fortunate enough to be sitting by a lot of current and former skating pros and between photos and autographs, I managed to ask them what they thought of Cleveland. Everyone had great things to say, including Dorothy Hamill, one of the most famous and, in my book, nicest skaters in attendance! She and her friends stayed at the Ritz and really thought the convenience of the hotel and “The Q” (the arena) was great – especially with the colder temps we had this weekend. Other athletes of note we saw included Scott Hamilton reporting for the NBC broadcast, Brian Boytano, Nancy Kerrigan and Kristie Yamaguchi.
I consider myself to be an avid fan of rock and roll music and one of the great things about calling Cleveland home is its reputation for memorable rock and roll concerts. Whether it’s a secret show by Akron’s Black Keys for 100 people at the Beachland Ballroom (in the small tavern side) or a comeback tour stop by Stone Temple Pilots and native frontman Scott Weiland at PlayhouseSquare’s 5,000-seat State Theatre, I’m never at a loss to see a great rock and roll show. This is, after all, the home of rock and roll.
Last Friday I took my fiancé to see the Foo Fighters in concert at Quicken Loans Arena for her birthday. We were running late to the show and with the Cleveland Indians playing next door at Progressive Field it could have been difficult getting to the show on time and finding a parking spot with all that traffic, but here’s a tip . . . take the RTA. We live close to a RTA Red Line Rapid Station which makes it very convenient to travel to downtown. In less than 15 minutes we arrived at Tower City Center and took the Walkway to Gateway that leads right into Quicken Loans Arena.
It was a homecoming of sorts for the Foo Fighters with Dave Grohl being from nearby Warren, Ohio. The Foo seemed to play harder, louder and longer. Pulling out all the stops for the hometown crowd, which included Grohl’s father, in a 2 ½-hour show that included a few surprises.
The band opened up an electric set with “Let It Die,” a track off their latest album and mixed in a few hits with “Times Like These” and “Learn To Fly” as well as a cover by The Who called “Young Man Blues.”
Halfway through the show the band took to a small circular stage about 30 feet from our seats and played an acoustic set featuring “Marigold” (a Nirvana B-side), “My Hero” and “Monkey Wrench” with Pat Smear, a former Nirvana bandmate, on guitar. The good times continued to roll with Kelly Pavlik, the middleweight boxing champion from Youngstown, Ohio, coming on-stage to lead the audience in a raucous “O-H-I-O” chant.
The band topped that with another lively cover of The Who’s “Bargain” with Supergrass’ Gaz on leads vocals and “Best of You” for the encore. Another fine show indeed –Cleveland style.